NOVEMBER 13, 2014 By Joseph Fomolu – firstname.lastname@example.org
A good statesman is always in touch with his people. Through this contact, he is able to know their feelings, their concerns and thoughts. A good statesman is never far from his people. A good statesman is a good communicator. A good statesman listens to his people. A good statesman cares for all his people.
I am yet to shake the hand of President Koroma, though a Sierra Leonean, yet I have shook the hands of the President of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, in Kanilai, his home town. Why is it so? I believe it is because our President, Ernest Bai Koroma, is not in touch with majority of Sierra Leoneans. That is one of the reasons why I believe most Sierra Leoneans have not been able to understand his policies.
NON-ADHERENCE TO STATE OF EMERGENCY
Thank God, when I look at the Ebola response update, I have noticed that this scourge will soon be gone from Sierra Leone. There were 45 confirmed cases as of 8 November: Western Area Urban 12, Western Area Rural 12, Bo 4, Bonthe 0, Moyamba 3, Pujeun 0, Kailahun 2, Kenema 0, Kailahun 2, Kono 0, Bombali 6, Kambia 0, Koinadugu 4, Port Loko 2, Tonkolili 0.
Compared to update on 4 November, there is an improvement. New confirmed cases were 56: Kailahun 0, Kenema 0, Kono 0, Bombali 24, Kambia 0, Koinadugu 0, Port Loko 2, Tonkolili 3, Bo 3, Bonthe 0, Moyamba 3, Pujehun 3, Western Area Urban 8, Western Area Rural 13.
Though the cases are moving up and down, it is encouraging. Update on 7 November came out with 41 confirmed cases: Kailahun 0, Kenema 0, Kono 0, Bombali 6, Kambia 0, Koinadugu 6, Port Loko 2, Tonkolili 12, Bo 0, Bonthe 0, Moyamba 0, Pujehun 0, Western Area Urban 10, Western Area Rural 5. As of 9 November, there were 111 confirmed cases, while on 10 November it was 90 confirmed cases. This recent increase could be attributed to attitudinal problems as result of observing obsolete burial traditions, in spite of incessant calls to wait on burial teams before any burial.
But what may have caused the spread of the virus in spite of President Koroma’s pronouncement of a State of Emergency three months ago? I can attribute it to few Sierra Leoneans receiving the message, but not understanding it. Those who received the message refused to adhere to the president’s call because they did not understand what State of Emergency meant.
The Media is not radio, television and newspaper alone. In addition, those who pass the message through the media need to understand the message they are going to disseminate. Moreover, they should know how many people read their newspapers, how many people approximately listen to their radio stations or watch their TV Sets and what time they do that.
TAM BAYOH, ADAMU EZE AND OTHERS’ ARRESTS
If president Koroma had hired journalists of this generation like Salasko Maxwell (pick no sense or kapu word fame), Vivian Stack-Davies, Salia Magona, and others of the late 70’ and early 80s, the Ebola message or State of Emergency would have been understood. When I read on whatsapp the Press Release of Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Franklyn B. Kargbo, I said, “It is overdue.” Why? The government failed to realise that majority of Sierra Leoneans have never gone through a State of Emergency. Therefore, they did not understand the dos and don’ts of a citizen when a State of Emergency has been proclaimed.
David Tam Bayoh may have been insinuating or imputating on his radio programme because he did not understand the details of the State of Emergency. My colleagues, Alhaji Saidu Bangura, Edward Marah and others may not have seen a document on State of Emergency. Joe Willie, Christo may have seen it and known the ramifications.
Christo has been practicing journalism from the days of President Siaka Stevens, when there was a declaration of State of Emergency for over three times. Dr. David Tam-Bayoh started practicing journalism during the time of Dr. Tejan Kabbah and the NPRC. There were State of Emergencies, but the ordinary citizen may have thought that it was for rebels alone.
President Koroma or his spokesperson/s would have come down to the level of the grassroots Sierra Leonean to explain what a State of Emergency is the duties of a citizen during a State of Emergency and even prepare and distribute handouts on State of Emergency.
Our president, my president, Dr. Ernest Koroma, should not assume the people know or understand his policies. Let the State of Emergency document be available to the citizenry.
LET’S REPEL EBOLA FIRST-THAT SHOULD BE GOVERNMENT’S PRIORITY
Government may be oblivious of how she has made Dr. David Tam-Bayoh a hero instead of concentrating on killing Ebola soon; not to rise again. It would have been easy for government to come out with a press release refuting the journalist’s claim or allegations. Government and the bank have the total of what have been donated towards Ebola eradication.
Similarly, some Sierra Leoneans are calculating daily how much money has been donated to the Ebola fund. Government knows what it has spent or how much to spend. Dr. Tam-Bayoh’s arrest and detention is like government countenancing his claims or allegations.
Our priority should be to drive Ebola out of Sierra Leone without delay. Sierra Leoneans are suffering. This is November, no school in the entire country. No big flights. The economy is crumbling. We have become a pariah state. Though we are not participating in African Nations Cup, the host country, Morocco, has refused to host it because of fear of Ebola.
From Bo to Freetown, I counted eight checkpoints and had to come down in the sun for my temperature to be checked. Farmers cannot go to their farms. Rodents and ruminants are destroying our cash crops. No proper bidding of farewell to loved ones who are called to eternity. No weddings. No naming ceremonies. No night entertainment spots visit. Above all, teachers of private schools are unemployed because of Ebola; not entitled to salary. I cannot talk about price hike.
GOVERNMENT POLICIES NEED TO REACH THE HEART AND MINDS OF SIERRA LEONE
The Sierra Leone Broadcasting Cooperation should organise a special interview with our president on his policies. They can even call it 60 minutes with the President of Sierra Leone. It could be weekly or fortnightly. The interview should also be replicated in all local languages. Moreover, the independent media must be allowed to report on those policies by given them correct, accurate and timely information.
Spin journalism can not be used during a State of Emergency like ours. The media is more powerful now than it was 100 years ago. Technology has advanced. Thus, the remotest part of Sierra Leone is able to know what has happened at State House in a twinkle of an eye. That is why government has to be in touch with the people, using the right media.
PRESIDENT KOROMA’S REGULAR NATIONWIDE TOURS NECESSARY
The recent cross country tour by President Koroma is commendable. His visit to Kenema, Moyamba and Port Loko Districts was necessary. Such visits must not only be done during emergencies or when an election is near the corner.
One of the attributes of a good statesman is regular visits to the electorate. It is easy now because there is a road from every district headquarter town to another; with jeep it is two hours or less no matter the condition of the road.
In my opening, I mentioned shaking hands with the President of The Gambia, but not with the President of Sierra Leone. President Jammeh is always with his people within The Gambia by doing annual tour of the entire country. His Vice President attends all international conferences, except the UN General Assembly meeting of Heads of State and Governments.
Even a child born in Gambia today, knows President Jammeh. Why? His vehicle hardly speeds within the city. He waves to his people when he is going out of the city and coming back to the city in fanfare, with thousands of his supporters behind and in front of his entourage. When he is going out of Banjul, pupils line the road from Banjul to the airport. However, as a sign of appreciation, he gives out money to schools whose pupils lined the roads for him. Some, he even gives school buses. (Will talk later about how he gives laptop and Le2m equivalent to each graduate of the University of Gambia on convocation day).
If president Koroma embarks on such tours after Ebola or during this Ebola, he will be able to know his people more. In addition, it will open direct communication links between him and the electorates, especially those in the hinterlands.
Moreover, such visits will strengthen communication between the president and the citizens, instead of the latter being fed with rumours that cannot be substantiated.
Another benefit of such visits is that it will help the president to explain his policies to the electorate in a concise and an accurate manner.